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Jerry Jones called the Cowboys’ 19-14 win over Carolina “beautiful.”
And there were, to be sure, some stats that looked better to Dallas fans than some in previous weeks—Carolina had more turnovers, more penalties, and fewer points than the visiting Cowboys.
But there were the negatives, leading at least one person to call the win “f’ugly.” (My 12-year-old can figure that one out later.)
Ugly, as in a 14-13 fourth-quarter deficit to a team that entered the game with a 1-4 record. Ugly, as in a team that needed a few lucky breaks at the end to propel the Cowboys to the win over the previously 1-4 team.
Some expected the Dallas offense to have a great game on the ground and also to take advantage of a weak Carolina secondary. Miles Austin had a decent game (5 rec., 97 yards, 1 TD), but few other Cowboys stood out. Dez Bryant only managed 2 receptions for 14 yards. Felix Jones could not match his totals from last week’s game against Baltimore, gaining just 44 yards on 15 carries.
On a more positive note, a member of the Dallas secondary finally recorded an interception when Morris Claiborne picked off a Cam Newton pass in the end zone, ending a Carolina drive. Except for a couple of drives in the second quarter, the Cowboys managed to contain Newton.
The Cowboys held 3-0 lead when Claiborne intercepted the pass. Dallas moved into Carolina territory, but when Miles Austin caught a pass over the middle, he couldn’t keep his hold on the ball, fumbling it back to the Panthers.
Ten plays later, and Carolina led 7-3 thanks to a touchdown pass from Newton to Brandon LaFell. The Dallas pick was important, but the fumble was more costly.
Fortunately, Austin made amends in the third quarter. He caught consecutive passes of 36 and 26 yards, respectively. The second was in the end zone, giving Dallas a touchdown and a 10-7 lead. Dallas later extended the lead to 13-7 on a Dan Bailey field goal.
Carolina started a drive early in the fourth quarter and benefited from a personal-foul call on Jay Ratliff along with a defensive holding penalty on Brandon Carr. A Mike Tolbert touchdown gave the Panthers a 14-13 lead with 11:38 remaining.
The teams exchanged possessions before the Cowboys managed a drive for the go-ahead field goal. One controversial call was on a 3rd-and-9 play from the Carolina 15 when Jason Garrett called a simple draw that wasn’t about to get a first down. Nevertheless, Bailey was good on a 28-yard field goal to give Dallas a lead.
On the next drive, Carolina moved to its own 40 but faced a fourth-and-1. Dallas was caught with the wrong personnel, and it appeared that Dallas was going to be called for too many man on the field. However, the Cowboys managed to call a time out.
On the fourth-down play, Newton’s pass to Louis Murphy was incomplete, and it looked as if Claiborne got away with interference. Nevertheless, Dallas took over at the Carolina 40.
More luck on the next drive when referees called James Anderson was called for a horse collar, even though replays showed the Anderson did not have his hands inside Philip Tanner’s shoulder pads.
Bailey’s fourth field goal of the game gave Dallas a 19-14 lead. Newton could not lead Carolina on a miracle comeback, so Dallas picked up its third win of the season.
The Cowboys are now tied with the Eagles with a 3-3 record, while Washington falls into last place with a 3-4 record. Dallas hosts the Giants next week.
Between 1960 and 1996, the Cowboys were seldom mediocre. The team had its ups and downs, but by 1996, the Cowboys had turned their fortunes around after two very bad years to end the 1980s.
Between 1991 and 1996, Dallas went 70-26 with a playoff record of 12-3. Everyone knows that three of those seasons ended in Super Bowl titles.
One of those three playoff losses, though, came against a team that did not play a single game until 1995. Of all teams to end a dynasty, it couldn’t be an expansion team in its second year.
But that’s what happened.
Nobody who even barely followed the Cowboys in 1996 can forget the many scandals. Michael Irvin missed five games because of drug charges, and it appeared as if he and offensive tackle Erik Williams were going to face even more severe problems when a woman accused them of raping her.
The charges didn’t stand, but the loss did. Once the Cowboys lost Irvin to a shoulder injury, the team was just never quite in the game. Meanwhile, Dallas could not stop the great Anthony Johnson, who ran for 104 yards on 26 carries.
(What do you mean you don’t remember Anthony Johnson? The Notre Dame fullback? Emerged from nowhere in 1996 before returning to obscurity after that?)
From Sports Illustrated:
The Carolina Panthers not only beat the scandal-scarred Super Bowl champion Cowboys on offense, defense and special teams at Ericsson Stadium, but they also showed more poise. However, the most stunning thing about Carolina’s 26-17 win in this NFC divisional playoff game was that it wasn’t so stunning. Dallas’s run for a fourth Super Bowl victory in five years ended in part because of drug suspensions and injuries but mostly because the Panthers were the setter team. Running back Anthony Johnson carried Carolina in crunch time when Smith couldn’t carry Dallas. Panther Kerry Collins was a better quarterback than Troy Aikman, who threw interceptions to kill the Cowboys’ last two drives. With a complex blitz package and a secondary that played tighter coverage than Dallas ever anticipated, the Carolina defense frustrated the Cowboys for the better part of 60 minutes.
Anyway, the franchise that was seldom mediocre has been anything but since then. Between 1997 and 2012, here are the numbers:
* Regular season record: 122-123
* Playoff record: 1-6
* One of those six teams: Carolina in 2003
I’ve heard someone try to argue that Carolina has “owned” the Cowboys, but that is certainly not true. While Dallas has fallen to the Panthers in two playoff games, Dallas has an overall record of 8-3 against Carolina, including wins in the last four.